There are bicycles everywhere in The Netherlands. That’s my impression, at least, after visiting three Dutch cities last year. In the larger places like Amsterdam and Utrecht, the bike paths are integrated into the plan of the city. It’s quite impressive and a low-tech solution that makes the city more accessible and the people, healthier. I didn’t see a lot of overweight people there, at least the ones that didn’t appear to be tourists.
While I love the cool blue and white trams of Amsterdam, they look so modern and contrast nicely against the architectural details, it’s the bicycles that probably have a greater impact on country’s transportation infrastructure. Most of it positive, but as you will see later, there’s a downside.
The net effect of all these bikes is the comparably fewer cars in the city centers and cleaner air. Other than dodging an occasional speeding bike, walking around the city is pleasurable. From my limited stay, I was quite amazed by the lack of cars and traffic jams, even during rush hour.
And I suppose that makes sense. I you figure that nearly every bike is a car eliminated off the street, there’s going to be a lot fewer cars around. This bike lane cuts right through the Rijksmuseum, a major museum in Amsterdam. An example of pedestrian and bike first urban design.
The bikers are different in the The Netherlands too, compared to the U.S. Here in Austin, most bikers look like they are out to get exercise clad in skin-tight spandex. The Dutch appear to use bicycles as a method of transportation. Their clothing are normal or even stylish. The bikes are simple urban models optimized for utility and not racing. Some are even fitted with milk crates for increased practicality.
Photographically, I experimented shooting with slow shutter speeds to induce motion blur. It gives a sense of movement to the bicycles.
While the occasional bike by the front door can look quaint, especially next to nicely detailed brick in the afternoon light, what happens when you have a lot of bikes?
You begin to realize, in the big city centers, every foot of available space gets taken over.
It’s especially congested by the main train stations, even in a small city like Breda. But Breda’s impressive collection was nothing compared to the central Amsterdam Station. On either side of the path, in front of the ibis hotel, the low slung buildings housed nearly uncountable number of bikes. The building to the right was the premium spot with indoor parking. The multi-tiered structure to the left, as big as car parking lot.
It goes to show that even good things have a downside. That said, imagine how big of parking lot is need to house this many cars? Overall, it’s a good problem to have and undoubtedly the net positives outweigh small negatives. The bike culture is impressive to see and certainly the mild to cool Dutch climate may be more conducive to biking compared to the oppressively hot Austin summers. The bike usage appears to be going up in Austin however, so there is always hope.
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